Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision: Second Semi-Final

First up - mystery solved - the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France & Serbia will premiere their songs in the final - so there will be some new material. The commentators explained that they automatically qualify for the finals as the first 4 bank roll the contest and Serbia were the previous winners. Seems a bit dodgy, but there you go. I can’t wait to see Sebastien Tellier’s song for France, and how will the UK top the camp-o-rama of Skooch from last year. Let's hope they don't wear silver, there's so much of it this year.

Well, there was a suitably odd opening including a half-man/half-horse emcee and some blue/green painted people before this year's Will & Grace hosts appeared to usher us into the exciting round 2.

The songs:

  • Iceland – I always expect big things from Iceland due to the fact that a) it’s a bizarre place and b) they gave us Björk. However, I wasn’t expecting an Erasure techno-anthem. I think there’s a good chance this one could win, but I would have liked something more outré.

  • Sweden – Again, the home of ABBA, so they’ve got a lot to live up to. Was a bit disappointing although I liked that they used a microphone. Tony asked “Have I heard this before?” “A thousand times” I responded. Stephen Fry eat your heart out.

  • Turkey – A disappointing Bon Jovi-ish stadium rock but there was some serious arched eyebrow work from the singer.

  • Ukraine – This was good. A glittery Taylor Dane styled singer backed up by 4 dancers who started the song in Perspex boxes. Great staging, a less formulaic song (which is a noticeable problem this year) and fun electronic noises at the end of each verse line that they worked into the choreography. Deserves top 5, if not the win.

  • Lithuania – Where to start? The hair. The Leather pants. The painfully off-key voice. The hand jewelry. Make it stop. Worst song in the contest so far.

  • Albania – A tawdry ballad sung by a 16 year old singer with a great name – Olta Boka. We talked through most of it which should tell you something.

  • Switzerland – The first half was a piano based ballad that morphs into a better song mid-way through, although overshadowed by the unpleasant lead vocals, which were overshadowed by the great backing vocalists, some of which were working huge Toyah type hair-do’s. You decide what to make of it.

  • Czech Republic – More silver cossies (I neglected to note the others, but it is like an epidemic this year), tres Spice Girls-y as the energetic, sun-sational (read that – over-tanned) quintet struggled to keep some sort of vocal control over the cluttered backing track and completely unnecessary interjections from the “dj” at the back. A mess.

  • Belarus – ‘Hasta La Vista’ – a Ricky Martin title for a Ricky Martin style song. More silver mini-dresses, more leather pants and this time some star-studded orbs to dance on and around. Hasta La Vista indeed.

  • Latvia – Pirates of the Sea, singing a disco shanty called ‘Wolves of the Sea’. Dressed as pirates. Is the song most likely to stick in my head this year though (not a good thing) – much like the dreadful ‘We Are the Winners of Eurovision’ from 2007 which still haunts me at a low ebb. Horrid. Unbelievably, this got through to the final.

  • Croatia – Cabaret with some old blokes, a Spanish-ish dancer and accordions. Was a respite after the relentlessly hysterical songs until it turned into one at the end.

  • Bulgaria – Back to the power-pop – strobes, a break-dancer and a super-long instrumental introduction had me thinking there might not be vocals on this one. Not so, as it turned into a catchy pop song and then sort of combined the different intro bit. Strange but alright. They had turntables with fire on them which was probably symbolic of, well, I’ve no idea really.

  • Denmark – Predictable song and lyrics anyone could have written. Includes yet another “please make this song interesting” chord change. The singer really sold this fluff though.

  • Georgia – ‘Peace Will Come’. The singer is blind and looked a little like Elaine from Seinfeld. I liked the outrageous sunglasses she was wearing. Best thing about the song was the incredibly swift costume change from their black post-apocalyptic fashions to white ‘peace’ attire. I’m still not sure how they did it so fast. They’re in the final, so look out for the giant parachute/sheet that waves over them for the split-second costume change.

  • Hungary – Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Malta – I think I was running out of stamina at this stage, all I recall is lots of dancing and 16-story notes. Called ‘Vodka’, I probably could have used one by then.

  • Cyprus – Some serious scalloped collar work going on and another quick change. This song was a bit of a missed opportunity, after the ok intro it turned into a 60’s spy/cabaret thing with some great choreography and staging, but then took some musical turns to its detriment.

  • F.Y.R. Macedonia – Rap and a screeching diva. None for me thanks (although points for the use of crazy false eyelashes and male knee socks).

  • Portugal – I found this somewhat tune-impaired, overly dramatic and completely un-involving – it got through though, so it’s me against the voters again it seems.

The winner of the first Eurovision appeared to announce the call to start voting. Was a bit strange as she (seriously) asked the audience to give her a standing ovation (which they didn’t) and when the time came to start the voting she didn’t seem to know what was going on. Weird.

So – tonight’s the big one. Get the Kettle crisps ready.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eurovision: First Semi-Final

It seems to come around faster every year, but really people, could it ever come fast enough. I've said it before, but it's our Grand Final and some of the best fun you can have with a TV show.

Last night was the first semi-final; this year there are so many entries that there are two semi-finals, and the winners from the semis go into the grand final on Sunday night (Australian TV delayed time). Although I love the idea of three big Eurotastic nights, it does deflate the excitement of seeing a whole batch of unseen entries in the final, I'm not sure if there will be any new contestants in the final (like last year where about half were). If so, hopefully the organisers will pull something out to make sure that the opening and voting time entertainment is spectacular.

This year's Eurotainment is book-ended by Julia Zemiro who seems like a great choice for the task. I only hope her Eurovision character Brovna makes an appearance (SBS might be saving her up for the final).

So, on to the show...

- The brief, black and white swingle-singers-ish, opening was somewhat arresting in a comical/sixties way. This lead into the opening number that started off with a grand display of the amazing video backdrop and catwalks, but then lead into an unspectacular opening number with a slightly off-key brass band who provided strange versions of Congratulations, Waterloo and Volare. I found the blue and red people a bit unsettling.

- Hosts - where do they find them? Once again a male female combo resembling Will & Grace. Is it in a contract somewhere? Great accents and the usual level of delirious enthusiasm. All in all - great.

The songs:

  • Montengro - A bland start.
  • Israel - Emotive boy-bandy, best left alone.
  • Estonia - Comical, sorry "comical" with three guys in primary colour suits being ker-azy. A couple of barely clad beauties managed the oversized props and were no doubt there as some sort of distraction. Not terrible, but not good.
  • Moldova - Apologies to the good people of Moldova (and I know you'll be reading this), but I've found it hard to forgive you for the "Granny Plays The Drums" entry a few years back - until now. Their 2008 entry is a nice bossanova piece with smooth vocals - very pleasing and a nice change of pace. The only let-down was the poor staging - the sofa and the teddy bear didn't do anything for the song.
  • San Marino - Have they been in it before? I can't recall. A bit overblown.
  • Belgium - O Villisy, or something - apparently in a made-up language, so I don’t care if the title is wrong. It was cute and the back up singers looked like air hostesses.
  • Azerbaijan - Spectacularly bonkers, sort of a heaven vs hell/angels vs demons thing, and all up a bit like a Marilyn Manson tribute at a theatre restaurant. At one stage the (then) black-clad demon guy pours a glass of red liquid over a female dancer, all I could think was - who will have to clean that up?
  • Slovenia - I think they were showing a woman oppressed by the patriarchy, or possibly by her dress, but you'll be pleased to know she turns it all around and oppresses the patriarchy back in a lime green skirt, purple waistcoat and kicky heels. Very Italo-disco.
  • Norway - Female version of a boy-band, if that makes any sense at all (meaning, they were more Boyzone than Girls Aloud). An unexciting pop number though.
  • Poland - The singer, who I believe is American, looked like Dontella Versace with plastic looking super-white teeth. Awful diva anthem song, I went to brush my teeth at this stage.
  • Ireland. Oh god. Not enjoyable on any level with a rapping puppet turkey on lead vocals and a cast of crazy hams in boas. What were they thinking?
  • Andorra - Everything you expect Eurovision to be - glitzy outfits, pop music, mad headgear and a key change (if memory serves). Thanks ladies.
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina - Had a lot of elements that could have made it a shocker - it's wacky for a start (always bad), costumes like L'il Abner meets a Russian Wedding and all manner of face-pulling - but.. it's an interesting track, and my favourite of the night. If you close your eyes and ignore the Bob Downe-alike singer it was almost Brit-pop.
  • Armenia - Off-key in a fringey frock.
  • The Netherlands - Poptastic like Andorra, maybe it was they who had the key change?
  • Finland - Haven't we been here before? Finnish Heavy metal. Will probably win.
  • Romania - Awful, Renee and Renata type ballad, my most hated style off music, well, except for Football songs.
  • Russia - Dull,but creative use of the stage, overhead shots etc...). The sort of ballad they seem to love in Asia, hideous, but fun to see an ice skater on the Eurovision stage.
  • Greece - Clunky, sounded like it was written by a machine.

    I'll be back tomorrow with the second semi-final recap...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

TV Music: Ren & Stimpy Production Music

This is unbelieveable.
Courtesy of Kirk Demarais' excellent Secret Fun Blog you can download for free over 100 pieces of excellent mid-century and mid-century-ish music used in the Ren & Stimpy cartoons.

It's a brilliant collection and even comes with specially designed cover.

I chose to use the Sendspace download (see link on the blog page) to get them all in one big zip file. Enjoy!